Personal Honour and our many lives

by Sarah Robins, UK

At this time of year the cold dark days of winter are beginning to give way to the new growth and renewed vigour of spring, and this often promotes the feeling of new opportunities opening up, a certain lightness of step and there is the scent of fresh possibilities in the air.

Spring and autumn seem to be the two main times in a year for making fresh starts and beginning new initiatives, it could be to take up that exercise class, or re-decorate the house, or begin training for a new career, do a spring clean, or explore a new interest. Some of these we will succeed in, others will fade away. At the time of the new year we may or may not have made some ‘new year resolutions’; if we did, how many of them are still on the go, and how many are on the wane, if not forgotten. When you begin something new what do you rely upon to get you through and why did you start it in the first place, and what has all this got to do with honour anyway?

Well let’s start this particular journey with the fact that we are not just one life but many lives, all part of the one life. These are the lives inside us, our emotional life, our mental life, the life of our heart, the life of our hands, our mind, our eyes, or our brain, or soul, the whole of our body and faculties. These are our gifted lives, all given to us at birth, each with its own skills and awareness and possibility.

Then there are the lives we build inside those lives by what we choose to do. We can play music, do sports, help other people, learn carpentry, look to our own personal or spiritual growth, it really is up to us. Can we add to the store of care and goodness in the world? Can we add to human knowledge? Can we be more aware and more capable? Can we come to new understandings about the whole human race and its place in the universal scheme of things? Can we personally develop and grow so that we are each more able and forward moving? And all these activities, all these endeavours, all build a multitude of qualities, strengths and abilities inside us. One person may decide to study to become a nurse, another an engineer. Although the subjects are different, both people will increase their persistence and application, will develop new skills and understanding, all of which will be caused to happen by the fact of them undertaking this study, whatever the subject.

So we are given the gift of life and the gift of choice as to what we then do, almost a second life within our gifted life. Yet all these lives, whether gifted or grown, are not the ‘you’ of you. It is rather like a factory, all these lives are the equivalent of the machines, the conveyer belts, the person who pulls the levers, the tea lady, the shipping clerk, the fork lift truck driver. The ‘you’ of you is more like the managing director who oversees the whole affair, who makes sure it is running smoothly and on schedule, the chairman of the board of decision makers, the commander in chief.

And it is with the ‘you’ of you as the managing director, as the overall decision maker, that the possibility of upholding honour resides. The one who can cause this to be, who can reason, who can promote the search for new knowledge, the one who can say, ‘this direction, not that one’, that is the ‘you’ of you.

All these lives have their needs, their wants, their demands. The resolutions we make, whether at new year or any other time, all come from and will add to one or more of these lives. Let’s take an example, starting an exercise class, why do it? ‘Well’, the ‘you’ of you, the managing director, may reason, ‘my body feels good after it, which helps me to feel good, so I can be better in myself and do more. I wish to give something back to this body of mine which has to put up with me sitting in a chair all day in front of a computer screen. I want the best for things as a principle in my life, so I want the best for my physical health too’. So off he goes to the class, and each time he does so, he makes an honour return to all that he has reasoned about it.

Another person may decide that they have always wanted to learn how to paint, and has a great time going to classes, learning, practising. And then a close friend’s 30th birthday is coming up, and they want to do something to demonstrate how much they value their friendship and companionship. So they paint a picture to give as a present, spending hours of their time to get it just right, and to convey a special feeling. That picture now has pride of place on their friend’s wall. There is honour in that, towards the value they feel and the importance they give to that friendship and that person.

There is a huge diversity in the way in which people live their lives and what they do, and how they express themselves. There is a very profound saying that goes with this, ‘It is not what you do, it is the reason why you do it’. It is the ‘you’ of you that does this reasoning, that holds true to values and standards and purposes and principles, it is the ‘you’ of you as managing director of all these many lives that can give honour or no. It can help to hold you to what you have decided to do. Honour is not the self-discipline or the will power that keeps the nurse or engineer studying late into the night, or gets a tired person off to their exercise class, or causes someone to pick up a paint brush when they ‘don’t quite feel like it’. Yet it adds into honour as you hold true to what you have decided, there is a feeling of rightness that accompanies this, that in turn helps with the necessary will power to keep on.

One of my neighbours was made redundant from his computer firm about ten years ago, and, rather than trying to find a similar job, decided to see if he could make a living out of his hobby, which was wood turning. He now spends his working life making beautiful wood bowls and vases and boxes and travelling around craft fairs selling them. He is so very thankful that he was made redundant all those years ago and says how much better he feels in himself. Although he does not make as much money his life is far more rewarding, and he speaks with an infectious enthusiasm about wood, the differences in the grain, how it looks in different lights and at different angles, how best to work it to make the beauty inside shine out. “We have caused so much ugliness in the world”, he says, “I want to put some of the beauty back in, and I consciously put a lot of patience and care into everything I make.” And it shows, all his pieces have a special glow about them, and he has obviously thought about what he is doing and why. And in this way, any principle that you uphold and act upon that is from your well reasoned value life makes an honour return to many things, to the many lives that you are and to God. You get a feeling of well being and wholeness, you feel clean inside.

For each person honour will have a unique expression, according to their own reasoning and adding up as to what is right and true, but is there any ultimate criteria by which this can be measured? This is where the spiritual and moral dimension comes into play; for it is in trying to understand the reasons for existence, and in trying to develop values and qualities, that we build the foundations from which honour can proceed; and for these to be true to our own spiritual lives, they would need to be as close to the ways of the planet and universe as we can find. This is an honour to our very existence, to discover these ways and understandings and then to be able to outplay them into and with our own life and the lives of all we come into contact with. And having reasoned this deeply and acted upon it, then honour becomes an automatic response and builds in depth and intensity in our on-going life.

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